A group of Anderson University students are determined to help children in Africa orphaned by AIDS — and an AU recording label helped push them in the right direction.

Four students, who will be seniors in the fall, Zandi Moyo, Natalie Hammonds, Christopher Gilmore and Amanda Schneider started Mercy’s Memento.

“We are focusing on raising awareness and raising money for AIDS orphans in Africa, predominantly southern Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa,” said Moyo, 22, who is from Zimbabwe.

“Eventually we would like to move to southern Africa and work with an AIDS orphanage that is already established and add on, or start our own,” she said. The four friends had been talking about their common interest and goal since they were freshmen, and the first semester of their junior year they decided to plan it out and have a game plan. Since then, they started raising money for their future work with African orphans.

That is where AU’s Orangehaus Records came in.

Orangehaus co-sponsored a campaign with Acting on AIDS to inform the community about the pandemic through DISRUPTION, a weeklong community awareness campaign that began on April 23. Orangehaus also helped raise money for Mercy’s Memento.

“I was looking for a good charity to give money to,” said Kyle Lacy, vice president of marketing at Orangehaus. “I wanted to do something that benefited people with AIDS either in Africa or Indiana or around the area. Through friends I found out about a group of students planning on going to Africa who needed help raising money.”

DISRUPTION week coincided with the CD release of Orangehaus’ newest artist, Nathanael Hency. Lacy decided that half of the proceeds from Hency’s albums, “All I have to spare,” sold during that week would be given to Mercy’s Memento. Also, donations were taken for Mercy’s Memento during Hency’s debut performance at East Side Church of God.

Orangehaus raised $1,100 from about 100 CD sales and donations, which included $475 during the Hency’s CD release party. The money went to Mercy’s Memento.

“I met with them and their hearts are in the right place,” Lacy said about the four students. “This group of students are going to take a year off from their life to help AIDS victims. There is really no way I could say no to them, and I was the one to approach them.”

The members of Mercy’s Memento were thrilled to receive the donations. The group is saving the money until they collect a substantial amount they can put to use in Africa. The money will be used to help an orphanage, not for their personal expenses, Moyo said.

“We found a lot of orphanages that have waiting lists for volunteers, but that’s not our vision,” said Moyo, a French and history major at AU. “We want to find an orphanage that is in dire need of people. We don’t want it to be a short-term thing, being there six months, feed them, give them things and then leave, and let them fend for themselves. We don’t want that to happen.

“We want them to look at the repercussions of their actions, not just about the HIV and AIDS pandemic, but we are also hardcore into (fighting) poverty and injustice,” she said. “We want to mobilize African youth to kind of do things, teach them valuable skills that they can grow with and eventually start their own business and take care of a family.”

Mercy’s Memento is focusing on long-term skills for Africans and maybe start a trade school to teach people how to make money with the skills they have, whether its basket-weaving or carving wood. The group’s goal is to reach children when they are flexible and open to change.

Moyo and her roommate, Hammonds, are hoping to move to Africa at the end of summer in 2007. The fight against AIDS is an important one to Moyo because she has seen the devastation the disease has caused first-hand.

“Personally, I’m from Zimbabwe and grew up in several southern African countries,” Moyo said. “Hearing about aids every day — every single day — having family members that have survived and died from it, it just kind of hits home really hard.

“My perspective,” she continued, “is I just feel like if people see Africans trying to help themselves, that gives us a better chance of us getting help from other people.”

For more information on Mercy’s Memento, contact the students by e-mail at mercysmemento@yahoo.com. To donate send a check addressed to Mercy’s Memento, in care of any of the students, and mail to 1100 E. Fifth St., Anderson, 46012. Mercy’s Memento and Orangehaus fight AIDS together. Anderson University students plan to help children orphaned by AIDS in Africa.

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